Academy of Music attorney's pay cut
nJudge backs lawyer's work, but trims bill for excessive and vague charges. BY TIM MEKEEL, Business Editor
A bankruptcy court judge has cut the fee sought by the Pennsylvania Academy of Music's former bankruptcy attorney by about a fourth.
Lancaster attorney Jacques H. Geisenberger Jr. sought $166,000 for representing PAM from October 2010 to June 2012.
But after the U.S. Trustee's Office protested, U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Jean K. FitzSimon cut his fee by $39,000, leaving him with $127,000.
The U.S. Trustee's Office had sharply criticized Geisenberger's work.
It claimed that the PAM case "often languished and appeared to be adrift and without direction."
PAM did not benefit from "much, if not most," of Geisenberger's services, the U.S. Trustee's Office said.
FitzSimon, though, defended Geisenberger's work, saying his "overall services were undeniably of value. ..."
She pointed out that Geisenberger's job was "made difficult because he had to deal with" PAM's strong-willed board of trustees.
But "at times, Mr. Geisenberger was inefficient and apparently overwhelmed by the Board and that, as a consequence, his actions and inactions caused unnecessary delay in the case," the judge said.
In his petition seeking payment, Geisenberger said he charged PAM only 75 percent of his regular fee.
On top of that, Geisenberger said he donated "untold and unrecorded hours" of service to the nonprofit academy.
Geisenberger also pointed out that he let PAM use his office space at no charge when it was moving and later when it was winding up its affairs.
PAM filed for bankruptcy in May 2010 and ceased operating in March 2011, but the bankruptcy case is ongoing.
A plan to wrap up the case and repay creditors some or all of what they're owed has yet to be approved.
In its filing opposing Geisenberger's bill, the U.S. Trustee's Office had argued that the bill was "excessive," given PAM's assets, as well as "vague" and "unnecessary."
The U.S. Trustee's Office also complained that Geisenberger billed travel time and clerical work at his discounted attorney's rate.
In her ruling last month, FitzSimon agreed in part with the criticism, faulting Geisenberger's itemized bill for lacking specificity.
Some 38 percent of his time entries, said FitzSimon, "lumped together several services" into a single item, "totally negating" her ability to tell if the time billed for that activity was reasonable.
Another 4 percent of his time entries "are so vague that it is impossible" to tell what service was provided, the judge said.
However, FitzSimon said she opted to reduce Geisenberger's compensation for lumped entries rather than disallow it altogether, to spare the attorney "a severe decrease" in fees.
FitzSimon also cut Geisenberger's fees for clerical work and travel time he billed at his discounted attorney rate and for entries she deemed vague or excessive.